The Opening of the Mexican Vihara
By U Nandisena


After months of preparations, collecting donations and much effort from the local Mexican dhamma patrons, the Dhamma Vihara, the first Theravada vihara, was officially opened on January 30, 1999 at a place near Jalapa, Mexico. The ceremony was attended by 150 people from far and near. Among the guests were Theravada Buddhist monks and representatives from other religious and non-religious institutions. Among the attendants were Venerable U Silananda (Abbot
of Dhammananda Vihara, Half Moon Bay, CA), Venerable U Tejobhasa (Sanford, Florida), Venerable U Jotalankara (Dhammananda Vihara, Half Moon Bay, CA), Venerable Phramaha Sakchai Hongratana (Abbot Suddhavasa Buddhist Meditation Center, Riverside, CA), Venerable U Kosalla (Abbot Dhammapala Monastery), and Venerable U Nandisena (Dhammananda Vihara, Half Moon Bay, CA).

We were also honored to have many distinguished guests, among them were members of the Interreligious Council, Representatives of other Buddhist groups, from Mahayana and Theravada, professors from Mexican universities, and members of the local community. It was a joyous event for the Mexican Buddhists to participate in the opening of the very first Theravada monastery on the soil of Mexico. This opens the door to disseminate dhamma further down south to other Latin
American countries.

Some of the invited guests started arriving the day before due to the remoteness of the location. People from different parts of the Republic of Mexico, as far as Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast, and the City of Monterrey in the north near the border with Texas, made their effort to travel to the State of Veracruz in the Southeast.

The ceremony started around noon and at the beginning Venerable U Silananda gave the Five Precepts followed by the Three Refuges. Soon after that the members
of the Sangha chanted and blessings were given. The shrine-room, where the ceremony was being held, was completely filled with the attendants and many of them had to stay outside and follow the proceedings through the loudspeakers. It was an auspicious day for the Mexican Buddhists. The weather was very cooperative and it was nice and fair. The building that was giving shelter to all the invited monks and participants was built in a record time by a team of workers led by Manuel Murrieta. Each team member was honored by Venerable U Silananda and members of Centro Mexicano de Buddhismo Theravada (CMBT).

Some of the guests offered flowers and incense to the Buddha, others spoke words of praise of the occasion, while cameras and videos were busy trying to catch those fleeting, historical moments. Speeches were made by some of the invited guests in appreciation of the opening of Dhamma Vihara.

At about 2:00 p.m. Venerable U Silananda and CMBT President Dr. Hilda Díaz uncovered a commemorative plaque which reads (English translation-see photo):
DHAMMA VIHARA
founded under the spiritual guidance
of Venerable U Silananda
on January 30, 1999.

Wreaths of flowers were placed where the plaque was uncovered and the emotion that was contained until this moment broke in a deep applause. Later, in the presence of the monks and invited guests, a “Bodhi Tree” was planted by CMBT Treasurer Rosa María Martínez.

The culminating event took place on the top of the hill now named Buddha Giri when the Sasana and Mexican flags were hoisted. First the Sasana flag was slowly raised by Miguel Pelusi while the monks chanted Pali verses from the Buddha's Discourses. Immediately after, Dr. Alejandro Cordova -- one of the founders of CMBT--  raised the three-colored Mexican flag while all the participants sang the Mexican National anthem. When both flags where flying high in the Mexican sky, the monks proceeded to establish a Boundary (Sima), an area where monks can perform acts of Sangha such as ordinations.

It had been decided earlier at the request of some members of CMBT that the entire hill Buddha Giri, including the area where the building is located, was to be a boundary and that those interested would participate in the delimitation of the place. Such was the enthusiasm and interest to participate in this act that twenty four men and women sign up for the delimitation ceremony. Since we had to delimit only eight cardinal points (north, south, east, west, northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest) we did each of them three times to include everybody.

It is true that we have accomplished something very important and this has been possible thanks to the support, help and effort of many including you. Now we have a Theravada Buddhist Vihara in Mexico, a place to practice and study the Buddha's Teachings. There is much to rejoice. So let us rejoice at our good deeds saying:

Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!